What words come to mind when you think of Finnish winter? Snow. Ice. Cold. Darkness. What about seasonal affective disorder? The acronym is SAD — which is pretty accurate. According to the Finnish Association for Mental Health, seasonal affective disorder can be a cause for depression. The side effects can be fatigue, anxiety, loss of pleasure or self-esteem, sleep disorder, changes in appetite or body weight, and at the extreme, thoughts of suicide. Not trying to scare you, just letting you know that these symptoms are real, and you are not alone — AND good news — there are ways to overcome it.
Here are some ways to deal with the dark winter of Finland:
- Do more of what you love. Seriously. Not trying to sound cliché, but when you are participating in an activity that you love, whether it be going to the gym, reading a book or singing karaoke (that’s definitely my favourite pastime), you are happy, smiling and likely not thinking about how depressing the winter is.
- Surround yourself with friends. Make it a habit to plan events or outings with friends, even if it’s for a chat with coffee or lounging in the library together. When you are with others, especially with people you enjoy, you don’t feel alone because you’re not alone.
- Take Vitamin D. My Finnish friends told me about this. It makes sense since the deficiency of sunlight equals deficiency in the intake of natural vitamins. My favourite is Minisun Metsämansikka (definitely not an ad, it just tastes really good!) So head on over to your nearest apteekki (that means pharmacy)!
- Use a SAD alarm clock. These are also known as sunrise alarm clocks, body clock lights, wake up lights, and the list continues. It basically is a lamp that simulates the sunrise so that you wake up with light, as you normally would in the spring and summer of Finland. Some of it can be pricey, but the cheapest options I have found were online.
- Go outdoors and exercise. Go ice-skating or cross-country skiing. Go outside, even if it’s for a half-hour stroll around your neighbourhood. Being in nature and breathing in the fresh air wakes your body up. It can rejuvenate your body and your mind.
This is just a short list of activities that you could do to overcome the dark period. Whatever you choose, remember to do something good for yourself. Look past the darkness and find the light that is there, you just have to look a little harder sometimes. Don’t waste your time staying inside and feeling sorry for yourself. If you need help, please ask.
If you have no one to ask, feel free to send me an email at kelly.keodara(at)tuni.fi and I will be glad to join you for a coffee at the bunny café.
So this winter, stay warm, stay active and stay happy!